In 1994, Penny McMorris’ predictions of how computers would change quiltmaking went beyond software and design. Community was a key theme of her predictions, justifiably so. Community—interaction among quiltmakers, sharing, support, teaching—is a core value for many quiltmakers past and present. Although research focused on quiltmakers’ online habits is still at the beginning stages, what is obvious is that quiltmakers are easily transitioning from in-person to online.
Historian and quilt scholar Amanda Sikarskie coined the term Fiberspace to identify the places in cyberspace associated with sewing traditions and the textile arts. She includes websites, discussion forums, blogs, listservs, social networks, and quilt history repositories. Within each of these platforms, community is a persistent focus. In quiltmaking’s online communities, quilters ignore geographical boundaries as they build friendships and professional relationships, establish new guilds, or read and comment on blogs.
Quiltmakers often use their online communities to supplement their in-person communities. Guilds quickly developed an online presence through websites and newsletters. Quilters often use online communities to connect to people who share similar characteristics or interests such as “modern” quilters and male quilters. Many charity quilt and quilt-for-a-cause groups have grown from regional to national organizations by creating webpages and blogs. Hobbyists, according to one study on hobby quilting websites, use online tools to promote the craft, share their knowledge of history or methods, create galleries of their work, and teach others how to quilt.
The online community is not made up entirely of the hobbyist or enthusiast. Institutions such as the International Quilt Study Center & Museum and the Quilt Alliance build communities of followers interested in the history of quiltmaking by engaging online audiences with quilt-of-the-month programs, having curators answer questions posted to social media sites, blogging, or posting transcriptions of oral histories of current quiltmakers. The commercial quilt industry also participates in this community with discussion forums, and celebrity blogs.